Ezra Klein has some thoughts on whether democracies--particularly our version--can respond effectively to economic crisis, a question I raised yesterday: Congress has been pretty pliant amidst all the rapid-fire bank bailouts and even the stimulus package. Republicans have been truculent about the stimulus, but truculence is also the luxury of the minority. If they were in the majority, they'd probably be much more constructive as they could claim credit for the recovery. Indeed, I think our political system is actually fairly well-designed for short-term crises.
"Let there be no doubt, the future belongs to the nation that best educates its children." Speaking this morning before the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the president has put into one clear sentence the fatal choice we will be making if we fail to pursue those paths that can radically improve our schools and the learning of our kids.There are no secrets about which paths those are, and Obama touched on nearly all of them.
This is why we love Mike Grunwald: A whip-smart Time piece cutting through the BS around earmarks: The point is that most Americans think of pork as waste. That's why Republicans called the stimulus bill "Porkulus," even though it had no actual earmarks. The fact that money is earmarked does not prove it is wasted, and the fact that money is not earmarked does not prove it is not wasted. This is common sense, when you think about it.
Thursday's White House summit on health care was all about cooperation and optimism. Republicans promised to work with Democrats. Corporate lobbyists pledged to find common ground with liberal activists. If you support comprehensive reform to make health care affordable for all, it was hard to walk away without feeling enthusiastic--about both President Obama and what he's trying to do. But at least one forum participant, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, wasn't feeling so cheery. Rockefeller is no enemy of reform.
Standing before a packed audience in the East Room, President Obama just finished his opening remarks at the White House health care forum. For the next two hours, invited attendees--members of Congress and their top staff members, plus representatives for various interest groups with a stake in health care--will participate in breakout sessions on different dimensions of the health care crisis. Afterwards, the entire group will reconvene for a larger discussion. This event, to be clear, is primarily for show.
Ezra Klein, in his article on the White House fiscal responsibility summit that Jon linked to earlier, posts the above chart and says: Government spending and Social Security, it says, will hold relatively constant in coming years. It's Medicare and Medicaid that chew up federal spending. Isn't that second sentence sort of an odd interpretation of this chart? Clearly, the projected growth rate of health care costs is unsustainable, and finding ways to change that ought to be, far and away, the country's top fiscal priority.
Still worried today's fiscal responsibility summit means there's a secret plan to cut Social Security? Then pay attention to Peter Orszag, Obama's budget director and bona fide fiscal conservative, who said this on CNN this morning: "Health care is clearly the key to our fiscal future, so we need to get health care costs under control and we want to do that this year." It's all about health care. And this administration knows it. Update: Paul Krugman has a wonderfully simple explanation of why this is the case. --Jonathan Cohn
Today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution carries an op-ed on health care that is positively infuriating--but also, in one sense, encouraging. First, the infuriating part.
There's a wicked little piece in today's NYT about how college students' somehow, somewhere along the way came to believe that if they put in the effort then they automatically deserve a high grade, regardless of the actual quality of their work. The article cites research into the subject. For instance: A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B's just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.
Should we pay people to quit smoking? A new study has shown that significantly more smokers will quit if they're paid by someone else to do so. Researchers tracked over 870 employees from General Electric for a year and a half, giving out payments of up to $750 to smokers who quit. Participants who were paid to quit were nearly three times as likely to quit as those who didn't receive the cash, according to findings published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine. Encouraged by the success of the trial, G.E.